A new study suggests that marijuana has a critical effect on this key brain function.
As marijuana continues to gain mainstream acceptance around the country, many people are curious about trying the plant despite what they have learned about its dangers. Drug education programs warn of the dangers to the brain caused by marijuana, but can it really cause permanent damage?
According to a report from the Washington Post, a recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that pot is not completely safe to consume without some serious consequences. The study shows that heavy pot smokers could potentially be doing permanent damage to their short-term memory. Scientists have long suspected this, and the recent study offers data to support this claim.
Professor Reto Auer and a team of scientists from the University of Lausanne studied the marijuana consumption habits of almost 3,400 U.S. citizens over a 25-year window. Participants in the study were given a long list of tests that assessed their cognitive abilities, including memory, focus, and decision making at the end of the study period.
The study’s results fell in line with the researchers’ expectations. They found that heavy pot smokers, defined in this case as people who consumed marijuana on a daily basis for more than five years, had weaker verbal memory during middle age than people who didn’t smoke, or only smoked a little.
The link between heavy pot use and memory loss was apparent even when the researchers controlled for factors like overall cognitive ability, age, education, the use of other substances, and the participant’s emotional state.
The study introduced the measure of a “marijuana-year,” designed to gauge the amount of time over which people consumed pot on a daily basis. Researchers found a more or less linear relationship between the number of “marijuana-years” a person had smoked for and the number of words from a list they were able to remember in a short time frame.
So will you forget everything you know if you decide to try a little pot? Probably not, but the study still discourages using it every day.
A press release from the University of Michigan describing the recent study’s details can be found here.